A military dog won a gallantry award on Friday for braving injuries from three grenade blasts to help British troops detect explosives and trace Taliban militants in Afghanistan in 2012. Mali “nearly died saving the lives of British soldiers”, said the organisation that announced the award.

The eight-year-old Belgian Malinois received the Dickin medal, considered the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom’s top award for military heroics.

The Dickin medal is given by the veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals. Winners since 1943 include dogs, pigeons, horses and a cat.

“His [Mali’s] expertise during one particular operation was vital in helping the UK forces and its allies secure a key enemy stronghold amid sustained fire,” PDSA said in a release.

During an operation, Mali was “seriously injured by three grenade blasts”. He suffered injuries on his chest and legs. “A further blast detonated close to his face, causing the loss of Mali’s front tooth and damage to his right ear,” the release said. “Despite his injuries, Mali continued his duties and pushed forward, remaining close to his handler.”